Featured image: G&R Farms Vidalia onion crop ready for harvest, courtesy of G&R Farms
Brenden Kent with Sunset Produce in Prosser told us on April 13 planting for the 2021 crop is finished. “We do have all of our onions in for this next season, and everything looks good so far. We are currently just mainly shipping contracts out on our existing crop and plan to go another couple of months with what we have in storage. The onions are holding very well at this point, and we are hopeful to have a good finish to the season.” He continued, “The market has been a little all over the place lately, and that’s not uncommon for this time of the year as new regions come online with product. I expect to see a little bit of a distance in pricing between new and old crop over the next few weeks. However, demand for old crop seems to be strong moving forward if the quality is good.” On transportation, Brenden said it “continues to be a concern. Reefer rates to the East Coast are extremely high, and I don’t expect those to settle down anytime soon.”
Washington/Oregon Columbia Basin:
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion Inc. in Hermiston, OR, told us on April 14 that demand this week “is off a bit.” He said, “While the organic market has been good and conventional yellows and reds seem to be hanging in there, the whites have slowed down.” Jared said, “The market continues to experience some hot and cold moments, which may indicate some places are trying to clean up as new crop regions are coming on.” At CBO, he added, “We are pretty thin on reds and whites, but we still have good supply on yellows and organics. Quality is decent for this time of year and should be there until finished.” As for transportation, he said, “So far so good. We’ve experienced a few hiccups, but it’s manageable.”
Our good friend Dan Phillips with Central Produce Distributors in Payette, ID, provided with his last report of the season on April 14. “We’ll finish packing on Friday,” he said. “All we have left are yellows, and we are selling mostly jumbos here at the end.” Dan continued, “It’s a tough week for demand. According to the USDA Market News, there are a lot of onions out there, and California is knocking at the door. That doesn’t help the market. Add to it the transportation issues – rates are still too high, and it impacts the market when buyers are looking at delivered price. Frankly, we’re looking forward to finishing the season and getting our maintenance and modifications down to the shed and getting mentally prepared for a new season.”
Rick Greener with Greener Produce in Ketchum reported on April 14 that his sales have been better this week than the last two. “I am selling out of Idaho, Washington, Oregon, Utah and Texas,” he said. “Deliveries from all areas have been very good. We are still seeing an increased demand for colossals, but mediums for retail still drive demand right now. I’d say when it comes to colors, there is good demand for all colors across the board this week.” Rick said overall the market is stable. “Understanding some sheds are trying to finish, we’re trying our best to hold the market up during this overlap/transition of regions.” On transportation, Rick said, “It helps that flatbed season is back. Freight is still high, but it does help that we can load flatbeds. If buyers don’t like delivered prices on reefers, they should consider this option.”
Rio Grande Valley, TX:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission said on April 14 his Rio Grande Valley deal is “going full blast.” He said, “We’re about halfway through in the Valley, and we’re in good quality and size – normal yields, normal sizes and healthy green plants now.” The market, he said, is “steady, and we just keep packing.” He added, “Transportation is tight, and labor is short at both the farm and warehouse. We all know the reason. Why are we even debating a jobs bill when we have the lowest unemployment and every business has a ‘help wanted’ sign?”
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco was “crazy busy” on April 14 when we talked and told us he’s running yellows and reds out of the Rio Grande Valley and whites out of Torreón, Mexico. “Texas quality is good, and demand is really good for both the reds and whites out of here,” he said. “We got out first loads of whites from Torreón yesterday, and they’re absolute diamonds.” He said the market “is trying to get better.”
Cliff Riner with G&R Farms in Glennville, GA, told us on April 13 the Vidalia season is “kicking off to a great start so far.” He said, “We are expecting good yields from our earliest fields and are glad our harvest has begun with cooler weather. The quality this year appears to be great, and as the harvest season progresses, we aim to keep fresh product in our shed for several weeks to come.” Leading up to the official pack date of April 19, Cliff said the early onions have been lifted, and as they lie in the sun for five to seven days, he’ll see the outer skin cure to a golden color and the green tops draw into the bulbs. “The curing process is critical to shelf life and flavor, and we take our time to make the product last in your stores,” he said. Cliff continued, “We have been fortunate at G&R farms to have our season start. Our goal when we plant is to select the right varieties and soil to begin earlier and end later than our competitors.” He added, “Even though we have begun, we still have fields with several weeks of growing to get to this stage.” Many thanks to Cliff and his team for sending recent photos and a recent video as well.
Hugo Flores with Organic King in La Paz and part of the Pampa Store Group reported on the company’s Tampico program this week. “This week we are seeing increased demand due to most Tampico shippers finishing up their season,” Hugo said on April 13. “We are shipping 20 loads to the West Coast and 15 loads to the East Coast. We are shipping all colors, but most are of the shipments are yellows because the market is better for yellows right now.” On the market, Hugo said it’s made gains. “The market has increased for our company 25 percent between this week and last week,” he said. “I am sure this has a lot to do with the increased demand and other Tampico growers finishing.” Hugo added that Organic King’s quality is excellent. “We intentionally design our planting and use varieties to extend our season so that our onions will maintain good quality longer. We are shipping excellent quality and will be shipping until the end of May.” Hugo also noted that he was he and his team were very proud to have recently received the GRASP certification. A Global GAP add-on which is a Risk Assessment on Social Practice and a voluntary ready-to-use module developed to assess social practices on the farm, such as specific aspects of workers’ health, safety, and welfare. Many thanks to Hugo for sending recent photos of his company’s onions.
Washington/Oregon Columbia Basin:
Jared Gutierrez with Columbia Basin Onion Inc. in Hermiston, OR, said on April 14, “We have finished up planting for the upcoming season, and our program remains the same. Onions are coming up and look good despite the windy weather we have experienced here in our region. We seem to be on track with our winter over onions coming off towards the third week of June.”
Herb Haun with Haun Packing in Weiser, ID, said on April 14 all the company farms’ onions are planted. “We’ve had some wind and cold weather, and the onions are off to a bit of a slow start,” he said, adding that the crop will likely make up for the start during the summer season. But in the meantime, Herb said, labor overall and transportation in particular are troubling issues. “Transportation keeps getting worse, and the labor force is totally upside down because people are getting paid to stay home and do nothing,” he said.
Colorado Western Slope:
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission, TX, said on April 14 the Delta-area farms have all their onions planted, and about 75 percent of the crop is up. “Everything is normal,” he said. Acreage for the two farms is also increased this year 10-15 percent, he added.
Colorado Western Slope/Utah:
Don Ed Holmes with The Onion House in Weslaco, TX, said his grower, John Harold of Olathe, was finished planting in Colorado and expects to start in late August with the intermediates and ship straight through until January with storage. His Utah grower in Corinne is also all in, with both locales keeping acreage the same as last year. Utah will start shipping in October.
David DeBerry with Southwest Onion Growers in Mission told us on April 14 the crop in the Eagle Pass/Quemado area is about a month out, with the reds and yellows grown on the Texas side and the whites grown on the Mexico side of the border. Our thanks to David for the photos of beautiful onions from Nowell Borders’ Quemado fields.
Steve Gill and Megan Jacobsen with Gills Onions in Oxnard said on April 14 harvest had begun in the Imperial Valley. “It’s that time of year again,” Steve said, and Megan agreed, “We’re excited to be in harvest.” She said “We started harvest on Monday with yellows, and size is look large, jumbos and colossal. Weather has been above-average heat compared to the last two years, and we’re starting with bigger size due to heat units.” Steve added that quality is looking excellent. Harvest will continue to the end of May, with reds beginning in early May. Our thanks to Megan for the great photos!